What exactly is Cloud? Or is it, The Cloud? Is it just me, or do no two people describe it the same way? As the product manager over the Cloud initiative at MasterControl, I hear these kinds of questions all of the time. With all of the advertising, mixed messaging, technical jargon, and promises of grandeur, it’s easy to see why so many consumers are confused. At its heart, the term Cloud has been a powerful marketing turn-of-phrase that has consolidated a large mix of technologies.

The general idea for the Cloud can be traced back to two simple business principles:
1. Focus on your core competencies. If you’re in the business of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or manufacturing, you probably should avoid being in the business of creating software, managing servers, and the like.

2. Specialization improves performance and can generate economies of scale. If a company specializes in the production, maintenance, and operation of software and a sufficient number of customers chose that company’s services, the service level to the customer will be better than they could create themselves. In a nutshell the Cloud takes what software companies do best - create and maintain software - and gives access to what they have created via a wide area network, like the Internet.

  • How much experience do you have in the Cloud? How long have you been a Cloud company?
  • How is my data secured and protected?
  • How much control do I have over the details of the software? Can I customize or configure?
  • What is the software upgrade schedule?
  • How do you handle disaster recovery?
  • What is your uptime?
  • Can you meet my validation or compliance needs?

What does a great Cloud partnership look like? The first symptom of a great Cloud deployment is that your company’s internal IT team is able to focus on what they know best and are decoupled from granular business logic. In other words, the IT team is relieved of the burden of carrying a pager 24 hours a day in case a server goes down at 2 a.m. The IT team is also no longer a critical path to fixing how the software is working or troubleshooting business logic. In a great Cloud deployment, your partner/vendor picks up that slack, which allows IT to focus on keeping your network up and humming. Also, you no longer need to schedule IT resources to perform upgrades; simply call your vendor and they’re happy to take care of it – and quickly. Another symptom of a great Cloud deployment is improved uptime. Cloud products typically have far fewer outages than solutions managed in-house. This is a byproduct of the whole specialization idea and the demand for a vendor to keep its many customers happy. In addition to these advantages, Cloud deployments tend to be faster and cheaper. Because the customer doesn’t have to purchase expensive hardware, large capital expenditures are avoided. Because the vendor manages several instances of the same software, known as multi-tenancy, they are able to bring new environments online in a flash.

At MasterControl, we pride ourselves on being the Cloud partner to thousands of users. MasterControl started its Cloud vision nearly a decade ago. In that time, we have refined our products and services to keep some of the most innovative life science companies compliant and equipped with the world’s best Quality Management System. MasterControl’s vision of the Cloud centers on flexibility and providing our customers with the options they need that best suit their business. From companies that leverage the MasterControl Cloud to host their QMS to on-premise customers that use the MasterControl Cloud for backup and disaster recovery, MasterControl is committed to providing a variety of solutions that keep our customers compliant and competitive.

The term "Cloud" has had many incarnations in the past: on-demand, instant-on, software as a service, platform as a service, and infrastructure as a service. Other technical terms that get thrown in the mix are multi-tenancy, virtualization, and data centers. As a business user it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the avalanche of details. Ultimately, after you sift through the details, the business decision of how your company can utilize the Cloud ends up being simple vendor selection. When you choose any partner to help your business, you have to make sure they are the right fit. So here are some questions to ask when you’re evaluating a Cloud vendor:

Victor Gill has extensive experience in the selection, deployment, and maintenance of business systems in highly regulated environments. His domain expertise in manufacturing and highly engineered products gives him a unique perspective in understanding business needs.